The ESA Method to Facilitate Student Learning Needs
Every fresh teacher, once starting his or her career, has this question: how should I teach English? What is the best way to organize my classes to make sure students would not be bored and learn something? And how to keep them motivated and enjoy every lesson? I did have all these questions at the beginning of my teaching career, and by trials and errors, I found the approach this TEFL course is based on – ESA.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Angelina G. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
My Language Learning Story
My English journey began long before I became a teacher myself - as an ESL student. However, my own experience was not that enjoyable: all the teachers focused on was learning words by heart and translating texts from English into my mother tongue rather than speaking practice. The lexical approach helped to build a pretty good vocabulary base, even though it did not help much in a conversation. And the grammar-translation only pushed me further away from producing English: I could understand and make sentences in English in my head. As soon as it came to speaking, it was too unnatural and sometimes did not make any sense as I still relied on my mother tongue grammar rather than the English one.
I have always been fascinated by languages, the way they contain not just different words, phrases and grammar structures but an entirely different way of thinking and cultural peculiarities. After studying for several years as a translator I realized that sharing the language knowledge with others felt so much more rewarding and meaningful. During my university years, I encountered task-based learning and PPP (presentation, practice, and production) approaches and that made me wonder if there was any other way of teaching which would be more entertaining, more students-centered, and more gradual in terms of transitioning from teacher-time to student-time.
My teaching career started in a small private school where I had all ages students from 6 to 60. At first, I was stuck to course books: all we did was following them page by page, and quite soon my students got tired of such an approach. Teacher’s books gave me lots of ideas and lead me to the method I did not know the name at that moment – Engage, Study, Activate.
It is extremely crucial to set your students to the mood for studying. Young learners usually have no problems with transitioning as their lessons are mostly based on the balance of entertainment and education – a fun game or and English song would always to the job. However, it gets a little complicated the older the students are: teenagers are usually not willing to learn as in most cases they take English classes because their parents made them; adults are constantly busy with their jobs and families, and when they finally find time to learn English their minds are occupied with a million of different things, and it is not easy to switch to English right away. This is the time Engage phases are necessary to start with: games, pictures, stories to distract your mind from everything else and little by little prepare it for using English and thinking in it.
Also Read: What Are Effective Teaching Skills?
After the Engage step comes the teacher-centered part of the lesson – Study phase. The teacher presents a grammar point, eliciting as much as possible from the students and putting it on the board, shows the correct pronunciation and drills it if necessary, and organizes controlled practice activities. This is the perfect time for worksheets and correcting mistakes as the students barely get familiar with the new topic or grammar point.
When it comes to the Activate Stage, the teacher should step out and let the students speak. Fluency here is far more important than accuracy. That gives students the confidence in expressing themselves in the way they can without being judged by the teacher. My absolute favorite activity for the Activate Phase is role-played. Debates and students’ presentations also work great.
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What I love about the ESA approach the most is its flexibility. It can be virtually used for every student's level. Straight Arrow lessons fit the beginners’ needs; Boomerang and Patchwork are effective for higher-level learners. As the majority of my classes last at least an hour, ESA lessons require no time fillers: there is always something to do. And what I value this approach the most is the balance: both teachers and students have their time on stage. If a fresh teacher asks me how to teach English, I would say: try the ESA method because it works.
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